One of the subplots in Hallie Meyers-Shyer is that of a trio of idealistic filmmakers, wanting to understand the formula for what makes a good movie. Meetings with brash Hollywood producers are uninspiring, and at one point, the writer of the collective frustratingly claims, “I just want to make a good movie”. But before they start fussing over that, they should probably start with this one – as Home Again is a horribly mawkish affair, lacking quite remarkably in any sense of self-awareness.
Reece Witherspoon plays Alice, the daughter of an esteemed, Oscar-winning filmmaker, who has moved to LA with her two young daughters, following the break-up with her husband Austen (Michael Sheen). Working tirelessly with her new client (Lake Bell), Alice is struggling to adapt to this new life as a single mum – until her life takes a rather unexpected turn, when she begrudgingly agrees to let three young filmmakers stay in her guest house.
Striving to receive funding to turn their celebrated short into a feature – all the while protecting their own creative sensibilities – the three fall in love with the family they’ve moved in with. Writer George (Jon Rudnitsky) forms a close bond to Alice’s older sister, while actor Teddy (Nat Wolff) takes on the responsibility of head chef in the kitchen – but the trouble lies with director Harry (Pico Alexander) who becomes romantically entwined with his new lodger – a situation that becomes somewhat complex, especially when Austen comes back into the picture.
There’s a real warmth to the demeanour of Witherspoon, an unassuming quality which makes for an endearing protagonist, and one who is incredibly easy to invest in and root for. It’s rather handy this be the case, as she saves this film from being a complete disaster, simply because you like her. That said, she tests our patience somewhat by falling for the unbearable cheesebag Harry. Just when you think Alice is a strong-willed, intelligent woman, she starts dating a proper douche. In fact, it’s hard to like any of the three men who are staying at her house. They all become so heavily caught up in Alice’s affairs, and they should mind their own bloody business. If her husband, and father to her kids wants to reconnect with his family, who do these three prats think they are sticking their beak in? They’ve only known Alice a week. Honestly, they’re really unlikeable – and I bet the short film they made is crap.
This is emblematic of a film that has several nice, tender moments, but is persistently undone by Meyers-Shyer’s inclination to be so overtly saccharine, unable to strike the same triumphant balance her mother Nancy Meyers perfected in the very same genre. The way the music plays when emotional scenes begin, and the camera lingers just that second too long on the sad faces of Alice’s two daughters… it’s horrible to sit through in parts and evokes much laughter from the audience, without any of it being intentional. The film has the right ingredients to be a really charming little drama, but just lacks in any self-deprecation, seemingly unable to affectionately poke fun at itself – which boy it needs.
Home Again is released on September 29th.